Growing up in the Midwest often means little exposure to differences evident in the rest of the world. Missouri is the Show Me State for a reason.
U.S. Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver (from Missouri):
I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me.
He didn’t mention staples on the table, though; from catfish to bar-b-que, from pork tenderloin to potato salad, from corn on the cob to apple pie.
How about sushi, sashimi, or sake?
My first taste of different food and drink came about during an army tour in Japan. A friend took me out for cold beer (bitter; an acquired taste), sticky rice (sticky is translated as chewy), raw fish, cooked eel, and sake (rice wine).
Surprisingly, raw fish and cooked eel were pretty good and nothing like I expected.
Warm sake is an acquired taste, too, and that taste and fragrance was somewhat familiar to this small town boy from Missouri’s northern hill country; much akin to warm turpentine. The taste didn’t matter. Sake usually is served in very small shot-like glasses from a very small bottle. Heated.
While it’s considered best to sip the sake, my friend said it would be acceptable to use the little cup as a shot glass. He said, “Besides, after three cups the strange taste won’t matter.”
Three cups of sake is all that’s required to remove the turpentine-like taste from the tongue. That also marks the beginning of a leather-like consistency to your cheeks, which, after a few more shots, cannot be felt by tongue or finger. If you can’t feel your cheeks, it’s probable that you can’t taste sake after three cups.
My tastes have broadened since my encounter with Japanese food. Rice, eel, sashimi, noodles, and sushi are as much staples in my life as mashed potatoes, catfish, and pumpkin pie.
Sake still requires three cups to begin the enjoyment stage, and three more cups to get there.